Van interior, it’s time for a redo

I decided that it was time to into the van. I’ve been wanting to remodel the interior of the van for a while now, taking it from a mostly stock interior to a camping super-van. The first step in the process is taking all the old stuff out, and taking a look at just what is hiding underneath.

After pulling the carpeting and plywood out I found that the condition of the steel is in extremely good shape. What a relief! It’s only going to take a little bit of prepping to get the space ready for paint and insulation, and that’s a really good thing.

The one bad thing I did find was that the three aftermarket windows that were installed were pretty much hacked in. The holes are way too big and the window frames barely seal at all. The other bummer is that they were held in place by plywood and Styrofoam insulation. I’ll need to build some frames out around the windows to make them strong and seal them up really good with caulking. I wish I could put the steel back in, but that seems out of touch at this point.

My plan at this point is to add sound dampening on the bottom half of the cab and insulation to the walls and overhead. At that point the wiring will begin, interior lighting and everything else for the “house” will be done at that point. Then I’ll start adding wood back into the mix until it looks like I want it to.

Here’s some things I’ve been thinking about:

Lizard Skin Alternative looks like a good way to dampen sound and control some heat.

Peel and Seal is an alternative to Dynamat type products and works as a sound dampener.

Reflectix is aluminum with bubble wrap in between, and is a good type of insulation for this type of job.

Camperize has a great write up on insulation for campers.

Onwards and upwards

After successfully passing the exams for licensing as a designated duty engineer I’ve made quite a bit of career progress. Basically the DDE unlimited is the golden ticket for sailors. I’ve been interviewing with both Foss and Crowley for work over the last month, and after getting offers from both companies I’ve decided to go to work for Crowley. The boat I’ll be working on is a 550 class Articulated Tug and Barge or ATB, based out of Seattle and running refined fuels up and down the west coast. I can’t even begin to tell you all how excited I am about this! It’s going to be a whole new great world and I’m glad to be moving up into it.

The best part about this move is that I’ll be moving into a junior engineer position, training to take a spot that will free up in a couple years as chief. Not only is it a better and more secure job, it’s also got quite a bit of room to grow. I’ll be able to work my way into bigger unlimited licenses which will only make things better for the long haul.

Anyone who’s sailing as an unlicensed engineer and thinking about getting a DDE, I have to say it’s very worthwhile! Job security is a great thing.

Pathfinder van info

One big run-on paragraph of a quote.

“Pathfinder Equipment Company closed in 1991 or 92 but I am not sure just what happened to them but the late 80s were the start of a bit of a recession so maybe that was the problem. The had at least two locations one in City of Industry ,CA and the others in Indiana?and ? (this was during the big Van Craze of the 70-80’s so they grew fast) information about the company is a bit hard to find but they only did conversions much the way Quigley (which by the way started about the same time) does today, only brand new vans and they did not sell kits. At one point they were said to have been making up to 500 vans a month. They used made to order Dana Axles 44’s for the most part and mostly NP (but later Borg) transfer cases adapted to the stock automatic transmissions. For the rear axle they just added lifting blocks to the stock springs and axles with new longer shocks or shock spacers and the OE shocks. They started with Ford (the Quadra Van) vans in 1973 at City Ford in LA and were doing Fords, Chevy’s/GMC’s (the K-Van, like the GM 4×4 trucks) and Dodges (the Vancharger) in their own facility by 1976. All of the Pathfinder conversions were built on One Ton Vans only. The Fords had Coil Springs and it was not a perfect mounting system as some people will tell you. I think the Dodges were also Coils but I don’t know much about them. The GM vans used a frame insert and switched to leaf springs. I have had four of these (76-78-79 and 85) trough the years and they seem OK as long as they have good bushing and such, they are tough despite they all have Dana 44’s. Those old uni-body vans (Fords until 1975- GM vans until 1996 and all of the Dodge vans until 2003 when they stopped building them were uni-body) are light compared to the full frame vans. Gordon the guy who runs Pathfinder-Vans.com is a good guy who can help you get some of the hard to find parts for those vans.”

Headlight wiring harness upgrade

Lighting up the night is important as we are driving along. Even more so if you live in the country, and there are deer or other animals lingering in the shadows. On any given trip from my house to town I might see anywhere from 2 to 10 whitetail deer and all that keep me from them is my high beams. When I heard about an upgrade to the factory wiring harness on most cars that can help brighten the headlights I started to investigate. What I found was that there are several people making these kits, mostly for sale on eBay, which is where I got mine for about $40.

The reason why these harness’s make the lights brighter is that they replace the small factory wires to the headlights, which were 20 gauge in my 4runners case, with 14 gauge wires. When I pulled my headlights out and tested the voltage on the factory harness I found that they were only receiving 10.2 volts! No wonder they weren’t so bright. After replacing the harness they tested out at the same voltage as the battery, which means brighter lights.

For the most part, this is a plug and play affair. The hardest part of the job is running the wires and mounting the solenoids, all of which took me about an hour. Easy modifications like this provide real world benefits are always great. I can say in a not so scientific way that my headlights are way better now. It seems to me that the low beams are not much brighter, which is ok to me, but the high beams are quite a bit brighter. This is great for the dark drive home, looking for those whitetails.

Follow along as I perform the sway below.

Lighting upgrades part 2

Do you see a difference between the pictures here and the ones in the post below?

This is the high beams with the upgraded wiring harness
This is the high beams with the upgraded wiring harness

This is the low beams with the new wiring kit installed.
This is the low beams with the new wiring kit installed.

I’m sure that the light is better now, and honestly it might even be plenty enough for most circumstances. I’ll show the wiring harness in the next post.

Lighting upgrades, part 1

This is the before pictures, just for the record. Headlight upgrades are coming down the tracks.

High beams with sylvania halogens and factory wiring

Performance of the Sylvania Hologen bulbs is not horrible, but it's not great.
Performance of the Sylvania Hologen bulbs is not horrible, but it’s not great.

Low beams with sylvania halogens and factory wiring

Obviously, I needed to aim the lights a little better.  Low beam performance is adequate, but it could be much better.
Obviously, I needed to aim the lights a little better. Low beam performance is adequate, but it could be much better.

Moving the rear window switch to the dash

I decided to move the switches out of the center console on the 4runner after spilling coffee on it for the millionth time.

This is the location where I wanted to move the switch for the rear window
This is the location where I wanted to move the switch for the rear window
First I pulled the center console and used a meter to see which wires did what on the window lock button. Two were closed and two were opened, so I took the switch out and made it permanent.
First I pulled the center console and used a meter to see which wires did what on the window lock button. Two were closed and two were opened, so I took the switch out and made it permanent.
Then I taped all of the wires up real good and stuffed them under the carpet.
Then I taped all of the wires up real good and stuffed them under the carpet.
After that I needed to run five wires from the center console over to the dash. I chose a factory wire run to follow and used 14 gauge wires.
After that I needed to run five wires from the center console over to the dash. I chose a factory wire run to follow and used 14 gauge wires.
The factory wire run went across in front of the front seat and over to the door sill. From there forward to the kick panel.
The factory wire run went across in front of the front seat and over to the door sill. From there forward to the kick panel.
Behind the kick panel I ran the wire up into the back of the dash and through the knockout.
Behind the kick panel I ran the wire up into the back of the dash and through the knockout.
I cut the wires for the switch between the switch and the connector, thinking that if I screwed it up I could just buy another switch. Make sure to take pictures and write wire colors down before cutting!
I cut the wires for the switch between the switch and the connector, thinking that if I screwed it up I could just buy another switch. Make sure to take pictures and write wire colors down before cutting!
After splicing in the switch I added the connector to the other end of the wires and taped it up real good.
After splicing in the switch I added the connector to the other end of the wires and taped it up real good.
The switch fit in the hole like it was made to go there.
The switch fit in the hole like it was made to go there.
Now that the switches are out of the console I have to start working on ideas for storage.
Now that the switches are out of the console I have to start working on ideas for storage.